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With iOS 14.5, Apple finally released a privacy feature it has been talking about for months: App Tracking Transparency. In the simplest terms, this allows users to choose whether or not to be tracked. Developers will now have to request permission in order to do things like showing targeted adverts in their apps.

For users, it’s hard to see a downside – apart from yet another annoying permission pop-up when you install a new app. But companies with very lucrative targeted ad networks (Facebook, Google, etc) aren’t so keen, as it means anyone who opts out will have to be shown un-targeted ads instead – which those companies can’t charge as much for. Facebook argues that small businesses may suffer, as they rely on targeted ads to find new customers.

There’s also the question of whether the change will benefit Apple’s own (much smaller) ads business, as by default it retains the ability to serve targeted ads in a much more limited capacity. Apple doesn’t collect user data for targeting in the same way those other companies do, but if you were advertising an app via an App Store Search ad, for example, you would still be able to target based on some basic factors like the device used and what apps the person already has installed.

Overall it’s a mixed bag as far as corporate interests go, but good news for consumers.

How it works

If you have iOS 14.5, you’ll start to see pop-ups in apps that rely on advertising asking for your permission to track some of your information in order to serve you targeted ads.

Developers are allowed to display a splash screen explaining why they wish to access the tracking data, and if that’s enough to convince you, you can simply agree to the terms and things will continue as usual within that app.

If you don’t want to be tracked, you can decline permission from the pop-up. This won’t remove ads from the app, but you’ll start seeing generic ads instead of those targeted to your interests or demographic.

Note that Apple does not allow developers to incentivize granting permission – they can’t offer you in-app or monetary rewards for saying yes. Any devs who try this will get their apps booted from the App Store.

If you don’t want to be tracked by anyone and all those pop-ups sound annoying, you can make a blanket decision and turn of all tracking. Head to the Settings app and choose Privacy > Tracking > Allow Apps to Request to Track.

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